So last night, our Just Be women’s group met at the community garden at church for a night of prayer, fellowship, and laughter. We started this garden a couple of months of ago, but it’s been slow to take shape given weather and time constraints. Last night, we were determined to get weeds pulled and plants mulched.
Well, I couldn’t imagine leaving the Sisters at home in the guest bathroom all evening after being there all day so I decided to bring them to the garden. Needless to say, when two boys under the age of 8 arrived, the Sisters took on their first playmates!
As I was hoeing around the tomatoes, I heard small voice say to his friend, “Ya know, when I bring my guinea pigs outside, they’re never like this!” These two youngsters spent close to 2 hours chasing chickens, digging holes, and hoeing weeds. Oh yeah, and they breathed fresh air, laughed their heads off, and probably, slept really, really good that night.
Because they were outside–outside enjoying the earth, outside learning about hens, outside making memories.
So how do we get kids to turn off the electronics and turn on nature?
Plant a family garden–since I began my little farm, I have had more friends attempt gardens in their yards and noting that their kids really did have fun participating. I spent one Saturday afternoon helping a mom and daughter build their first container bed. At the end of the summer, the mom said that they didn’t necessarily harvest much, but it made for good conversation and valuable learning opportunities.
Build a birdhouse–there are some ideas under my Thrifty Thursday projects, or you can find plans online, or you can go to your local hardware/craft store and buy a kit. Not only is it a project than can include everyone (the carpenter, the artist, the naturalist), it will also be there to provide entertainment and discovery as long as you keep it filled.
Raise a pet that needs to get outside (and I don’t mean placing a fish bowl out in the sun)–we actually inherited several pets from our yard who lived inside for some time then went back out into nature. Animals are not only great opportunities for exercise, they can also be wonderful motivators for kids who are not “outdoorsy.”
Fill a bug box or tadpole jar–doesn’t matter how dirty you get or how stinky something smells, bugs and tadpoles are preschoolers’ best friends. Want to go bigger–find an old fish tank on Craigslist and create a terrarium which can bring the outdoors inside for winter months or rainy days.
And speaking of rain, get out in it–splash in puddles, build creeks/dams, catch water in a rain barrel, measure the rainfall. Kids will be totally amazed that you as an adult are going against the grain by playing out in the rain.
Take a hike–make it even more of an adventure by having a list of 10 things they collect in a bag or look for on the trail. Take paper and crayons and make rubbings or bring back items from the hike for crafts.
Visit a new park, pond, lake, creek, arboretum, etc.–even in our most urban areas, green spaces are coming back “in style.” When my daughter was little, she would say she was bored at our neighborhood park, but by golly, take her then park in the neighborhood over, and you’d thought we’d gone on vacation. Often local greenspaces that are protected, such as a bird sanctuary, national forest or arboretum often have programs for families on the weekends that are free or at a minimal cost.
Build a fort, treehouse or put up a tent–create “livable” spaces outside that gets are relegated to for play and hanging out instead of staying inside
Go fishing–one of my most favorite memories is sitting at the lake with my dad fishing off a small wooden pier. Now, I only had a stick from the yard with a string tied to it and a large earthworm on the end, but it wasn’t really about catching the fish–it was about sitting there with my dad. Growing up, he taught me how to fish in the ocean, and we’d stand there together at dusk casting out beyond the waves. My dad is not a sports fisherman–he only does it when he’s with us. What a great opportunity for connection.
Plant a tree–when I was young, I brought a maple seedling home from my friend’s house. My parents let me plant it in a pot inside until it actually sprouted, then we put it in the ground in our yard. Even as a pre-teen, I watched that tree grow, providing colorful leaves in the fall and cool shade in the summer. I was always proud of that “project.”
As always, folks, share your ideas here–clearly, there are so many more than 10 ways to turn off the tv and turn on nature. Don’t we owe it to our children and the generations to come to share with them all of the memories we made outside as kids?